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Elsewhere

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci!

Barbara Hannigan sings Berg and Gershwin at the Barbican Hall

I first heard Barbara Hannigan in 2008.

Christina Scheppelmann appointed General Director of Seattle Opera

Scheppelmann heads to the Pacific Northwest following leadership roles in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East

New perceptions: a Royal Academy Opera double bill

‘Once upon a time …’ So fairy-tales begin, although often they don’t conclude with a ‘happy ever after’. Certainly, both Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, paired in this Royal Academy Opera double bill, might be said to present transformations from innocence and ignorance to experience and knowledge, but there is little that is saccharine about their protagonists’ journeys from darkness to enlightenment.

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.


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Performances

24 Mar 2019

La forza del destino at Covent Garden

Prima la music, poi la parole? It’s the perennial operatic conundrum which has exercised composers from Monteverdi, to Salieri, to Strauss. But, on this occasion we were reminded that sometimes the answer is a simple one: Non, prima le voci! »

Recently in Performances

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26 Feb 2005

Salome at the Semperoper

Sie inszenieren die sechste „Salome“ seit der Dresdner Uraufführung 1905 – empfanden Sie die Tradition des Stücks als Last? Da ich die Oper zum ersten Mal anfasse, dominierte die Lust. Eigentlich habe ich ja für „Salome“ Regie-Verbot, welches mir Mitte der 70er Jahre die Strauss-Erben aussprachen. Seinerzeit hatte ich vor Gericht mit der Frankfurter Oper um Urheberrechte an einer Inszenierung von Wagners „Götterdämmerung“ gestritten – und den Prozess gewonnen. Aufgehoben ist das Verbot nicht. Die Erben haben aber auch nicht interveniert. »

26 Feb 2005

Thomas Hampson in Vienna

Kurzweilig und mit pointierten persönlichen Anmerkungen verfeinert eröffnete Bariton Thomas Hampson seinen vierteiligen Amerika-Zyklus: Er ließ das Publikum im Neuen Saal an seiner Spurensuche nach dem “amerikanischen Lied” teilhaben, zog verbindende Fäden von der Alten in die Neue Welt. So sprach etwa der Mahler-Zeitgenosse Edward MacDowell fließend deutsch und wurde von Franz Liszt hoch geschätzt. Seine wonnig-traurige Seefahrer- “Ballade” brachte Hampson dann im Großen Saal darstellerisch raffiniert zur Geltung. Auch Charles Griffes (1884-1920) europäische Wurzeln – er war mit Engelbert Humperdinck befreundet – wurden nachvollziehbar, so in “Des Müden Abendlied”. »

26 Feb 2005

John Blow's Venus & Adonis at the Wiener Kammeroper

“Master of the famous Mr. H. Purcell”: Die Gedenktafel in der Westminster Abbey zeigt deutlich, dass John Blow, geboren 1649, schon für Zeitgenossen ein wenig im Schatten seines um zehn Jahre jüngeren Kollegen im Hofdienst und mutmaßlichen Schülers Henry Purcell stand. Dabei war Blows Karriere als Organist, Komponist und Chorleiter vielfältig und verantwortungsvoll. 1683 schrieb er “Venus und Adonis”, eine “Masque for the entertainment of the King”. Eine Oper im Taschenformat sozusagen, aus der Tradition des höfischen Maskenspiels emporgewachsen zum musikdramatischen Meisterwerk – nur mehr ein Schritt trennt es von Purcells “Dido and Aeneas” (1689). »

25 Feb 2005

New York Throws a Party for Handel

Through a felicitous quirk of its touring schedule, Nicholas McGegan and his period instrument ensemble, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, performed a program devoted mostly to music by Handel on Wednesday evening, the 320th anniversary of Handel’s birth. »

25 Feb 2005

Le Nozze di Figaro at the Met

In 1998, New York’s Metropolitan Opera staged a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro with a glorious cast that included Bryn Terfel as Figaro and Cecilia Bartoli as Susanna. The recent revival employed singers who are less well known, but it none the less came close to being a perfect night at the opera. »

25 Feb 2005

Bach's B-Minor Mass at the Musikverein

Die heutzutage gern gepflegte Diskussion über die Frage “Darf man Bach auf ,modernem’ Instrumentarium aufführen?” ist dümmlich. Dass sie überhaupt geführt wird, beweist nur, wie wenig adäquate Bach-Aufführungen es heutzutage gibt. Wer die von Franz Welser-Möst geleitete Wiedergabe der Hohen Messe im Musikverein hörte, hat sich garantiert keinen Augenblick lang mit solchen Lappalien beschäftigt. Er hatte keine Zeit, denn da wurde Musik gemacht, auf jenem Niveau, mit jener Dringlichkeit, die von Takt zu Takt signalisiert, welche inneren wie äußeren Höhenflüge des Geistes sich in dieser Partitur vereinigen. »

24 Feb 2005

Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin at Wigmore Hall

A decade ago, Ian Bostridge’s recording of Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, with Graham Johnson, played a major part in boosting his nascent career. These days, though, the tenor is more often found collaborating with pianists who are soloists in their own right. His second recording of the song cycle has seen him developing a partnership with Mitsuko Uchida – and it might be his most fruitful so far. »

24 Feb 2005

Tan Dun's Water Passion at Perth

IN pursuing its theme of transcendence, the Perth Festival has brokered some imaginative collaborations, such as the Tura New Music concert at the Art Gallery of WA, featuring Morton Feldman’s music inspired by the paintings at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. . . . »

24 Feb 2005

A Bad Day at the Staatsoper

The apes have landed. The Duke of Mantua is a gorilla. Monterone is an orang utan, surrounded by hairy baboons. The cult film director Doris Dörrie is monkeying with Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Bavarian State Opera. »

24 Feb 2005

A Full House at Royal Albert Hall

It is strange how easily Raymond Gubbay manages to fill the Royal Albert Hall for opera, when less than a year ago his Savoy Opera company collapsed because he could not sell enough seats in a theatre a fraction of the size. How irrelevant that ill-starred venture and its demise seem now. »

23 Feb 2005

Samson et Dalila at the Met

Though a sizable contingent of opera connoisseurs and critics have long considered Saint-Saëns’ “Samson et Dalila” a musically tepid melodrama, this 1877 opera has been an enduring favorite with audiences. It’s not hard to understand why. »

23 Feb 2005

Verdi's Requiem Tours France

A qui s’adresse le compositeur d’un Requiem ? Au défunt, que sa musique doit accompagner dans une ultime transcendance, ou à la communauté endeuillée, qui se voit ainsi rappeler son état de mortel ? Dans le cas de Verdi, agnostique déclaré mais chantre du sacré à l’opéra, la réponse ne fait aucun doute. La Messa da Requiem, créée en 1874 à la mémoire du compositeur Rossini et de l’écrivain Manzoni, est destinée à tout être humain sensible au pouvoir des sons. »

23 Feb 2005

The Controversy Continues in Munich

Eine groß angelegte, staatstheaternde Rettungsaktion sollte es sein. Und dass Doris Dörrie jene Verweigerer, die Oper doof statt dufte finden, an die Hand nehmen will, um sie heim in die Hochkultur zu holen, ist ja prinzipiell in Ordnung. Dabei pflegt die Filmregisseurin nur zu gern mit ihrem Nichtwissen in Sachen Musiktheater zu kokettieren, um augenzwinkernd nach Kumpanen zu suchen: Oper, die mischen wir mal so richtig zeitgeistig auf. »

23 Feb 2005

Aida in Philadelphia

Like picking a growth stock, the Opera Company of Philadelphia showed shrewd judgment by engaging sopranos (for two of its four 2004/05 productions) who promptly became media darlings. »

22 Feb 2005

Poppea in Zurich

The early music movement has come a long way since the 1970s. Or has it? Zurich Opera’s new L’incoronazione di Poppea invites comparisons. This opera house’s Monteverdi cycle three decades ago changed the way the world thought about the composer. Now it’s time for the remake. Same conductor, different directors. Klaus-Michael Grüber staged a spare, emotional Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria three years ago. For Poppea, it’s Jürgen Flimm’s turn. »

22 Feb 2005

Rigoletto in Munich

München – Idee ungewöhnlich, Experiment gescheitert: Unter dieser Kurzformel könnte man Doris Dörries erste und von großem Medieninteresse begleitete Münchner Opern-Inszenierung zusammenfassen. Giuseppe Verdis 1851 in Venedig uraufgeführten Opernklassiker «Rigoletto» auf dem «Planeten der Affen» anzusiedeln, diese Vorstellung fand bei der Premiere im Münchner Nationaltheater wenig Freunde. »

22 Feb 2005

Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges in Linz

Es ist eine der kürzesten Sterbesze nen der Operngeschichte: Ein schnoddrig verkündetes Todesur teil, jemand wuselt mit einem Strick herum, dann ist die intrigante Königs-Nichte auch schon tot. In Prokofieffs Märchen-Oper “Die Liebe zu den drei Orangen” wird schnell gestorben: Auch die den ersten beiden Zitrus-Früchten entsprungenen Prinzessinnen verdursten rasch, wenn auch klagend – eines der Details, mit denen sich der Komponist/Librettist Prokofieff vom Verismo abgrenzt. Keine naturalistische Darstellung, keine opulent auskomponierten Szenen voller Gefühlsüberschwang; statt dessen: Märchen und absurdes Theater, kurze Sequenzen, die einander fast überholen. »

22 Feb 2005

Massenet's Werther at the Wiener Staatsoper

Zuweilen begnügt man sich auch mit Details. Wenn das Ganze so gar nicht stimmen mag, gelingt es viel leicht dem einen oder anderen der beteiligten Künstler sozusagen gegen den Strom schwimmend, eine herausragende Leistung zu modellieren. Im Falle der “Werther”-Premiere darf Elina Garanca das künstlerische Freischärlertum für sich in Anspruch nehmen. Sie sollte die Charlotte singen, wurde von Regisseur Andrei Serban jedoch gezwungen, eine Art Grace-Kelly-Parodie abzuliefern, denn das Stück spielt von Inszenierungs-Gnaden in den fünfziger Jahren des 20. Jahrhunderts. »

22 Feb 2005

Anne Sofie von Otter at Göteborg

Yesterday [19 February 2005], I went to the concert hall in Göteborg, where Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg held a recital. It was the first time I actually heard them live, and I must confess that I was apprehensive! I have listened to them so much on recordings and taken so much influence from them, especially when it comes to my repertoire — what if I didn’t like them in concert? The concert hall was full — 1200 seats, imagine that for a recital… I have a hard time getting jobs at all because it is so hard to attract audiences to recitals. But, they are world famous and that, of course, attracts a large audience. »

21 Feb 2005

Michael Bohnen: At the Metropolitan Opera, New York

The title of this most worthwhile CD is, I’m afraid, somewhat misleading. The charismatic German bass-baritone, Michael Bohnen, sang at the Metropolitan Opera from 1923-1932. One might expect this CD to only document roles that Bohnen sang there, if not provide transcriptions of actual Met performances. In fact, the disc includes excerpts from several roles that Bohnen never sang at the Met. Of the twenty tracks on this CD, twelve, by my count, are souvenirs of Bohnen Met roles (Tonio, Rocco, Caspar, Mephistopheles, Wotan, Wolfram, Sachs, and Francesco in Schilling’s Mona Lisa). »

21 Feb 2005

Wozzeck at WNO

FIRST nights of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck are not traditionally sellouts, but then this was anything but a traditional first night. As the main event of Welsh National Opera’s inaugural weekend in its new home, the Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay, Saturday night’s performance sent out a volley of positive signals that will stand the company in good stead as it builds new audiences. There are more seats to fill than in WNO’s old house, but a strong forthcoming season combined with adventurous pricing policy should prolong the buzz. »

21 Feb 2005

Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer in Philadelphia

Time stands quite still in John Adams’ opera The Death of Klinghoffer. The pulsing orchestra, the explanatory choruses, the shifting viewpoints, and, above all, the tacit understanding that the events of 20 years ago are being replicated now with no measurable change give the work the feeling of complete stasis. »

21 Feb 2005

WNO Triumphs With La Traviata

Welsh National Opera’s first performance in its new home could so easily have been a disaster. But nowhere was the return of its former musical director Carlo Rizzi more crucial than in this revival, as he transformed the shoddy Traviata of last May into an emphatic restatement of the musical values that have traditionally been at the core of the WNO. Rizzi conducted with authority and passion, and with such care for his singers that where terminal decline had beckoned, he seemed to have effected a miracle cure. »

21 Feb 2005

Handel's Semele at Scottish Opera

A tale of everyday mortals and gods entranced a nearly full house at beleaguered Scottish Opera last night with the same clever mix of pathos, wit, drama and humour that has kept nations’ favourite soaps at the top of the viewing and listening schedules for decades. And it was the visual elements as much as the vocal and musical that clinched the success of this premiere performance last night. Director John la Bouchardiere (of “The Full Monteverdi” fame) worked with a light touch that engagingly mixed some pretty unusual elements into a confection that finally had the audience calling its approval. Likewise, young Christian Curnyn on the podium brought his Early Opera Company experience and love of truly modern stagings of Handel to bear, and managed to persuade the SCO orchestra to eschew both vibrato and swooping lines without adding any extra period instrumentalists, save a harpsichord. Apart from a slightly unconvincing first 10 minutes (of more later) they played with increasing verve and apparent conviction throughout. »